There are evil forces at work in the world today. These powerful forces are bent on the destruction of that which is so beautiful and precious, to God and us: the covenant home.
The forces of evil are the great, spiritual triumvirate of the devil, the unbelieving world, and our own sinful natures. The prince of darkness, together with his hellish hordes, has the covenant family in his crosshairs. He wants nothing more than to see marriages explode and families leveled. The wicked world, open ally of the devil, is also intent on the destruction of the Christian home. And then there is your and my old man, the enemy behind the lines. Without intending, the sins we commit against one another in the home work to weaken our relationships and can lead to their destruction.
These enemies are so interested in the destruction of the home because it too is a powerful force in the world, a power in the hands of God that stands in the service of the advancement of His kingdom of light. Weaken and destroy the covenant home and you weaken the church.
The covenant family faces attacks from every side. The list of pressures that are placed on the family could go on and on for many pages. This list certainly would have to include such things as the pressure of being earthly-minded, the pressure of world-conformity, and for some even the pressure of persecution.
I want to focus in this article on just one of those pressures. This is a pressure that is easy to overlook or minimize. And yet it is a deceptively destructive pressure that eats away at the foundation of our homes.
That pressure is busyness.
Busyness: A Reality
Busyness is a reality for a family. In fact, some might wonder if you open the thesaurus and search for the word “family” you will find the word “busyness” there. And I trust that this is true not just in North America, but also in Singapore and in other parts of the world.
There is busyness for the newly-married couple. They do not have children yet, but they live a hectic, fast-paced life. The husband works long hours at his office job over here, while the wife works long hours in a clinic over there. Sometimes one works days, while the other is on the night shift. They are like the proverbial two ships passing in the night. They rarely see one another, and when they do they are so tired that they can barely keep their eyes open.
If possible, this busyness increases with the addition of children into the home. Feeling the burden to provide for his growing family, the husband works even longer hours. Perhaps he also serves on the board for the school association. Or he serves on some committee of the church. Or he serves in the special office of deacon or elder. Many nights he comes home from work, wolfs down a quick supper, throws together a quick report, and flies off to his meeting, and does not return home until late into the night. The mother also is extremely busy as she does the important work of caring for her children in the home. She rises with them before the sun is up, and she is up with them long after the sun has gone down. Her day is filled with dishes and laundry and dirty diapers. She is out to the grocery store and the doctor’s office and the clothes department. Because of the lack of a Christian school, some might also have the enormous responsibility of running a homeschool.
It seems unimaginable, but the busyness multiplies as the children get older. Not only do you have the busy schedules of dad and mom, but now you add in the busy schedules of teenagers and young adults. They are gone for university studies, for work, for time with friends, for sporting events, for music lessons, and the list goes on and on. Rare is the night when the family is all together at home.
Busyness is a reality.
Busyness: An Anomaly
From a certain point of view, the busyness of our families is an anomaly. I say this because we have so many things that make our life easier than ever. Consider all the advances in technology that make our lives easier. Instead of keeping food in an ice chest, we have refrigerators and freezers that store months’ worth of food. Instead of lighting a fire to cook our food, we can use ovens and microwaves to have it ready instantly. Instead of growing our own food, we can get all we need at the grocery store or the restaurant. Instead of hitching up a horse and buggy to travel somewhere, we can hop in the car or grab public transportation and get wherever we would like with great ease. Instead of writing a letter, we can send a text message or fire off an email in seconds. These things were inconceivable just a few generations ago. Our life is so much easier because of these advancements.
And yet, our lives are so much more hectic than the lives of previous generations. Their lives were so much simpler, and things moved at such a slower pace. Why is this?
The culprit for this busyness is, strangely, the very technologies that make our life so much easier. Advances in transportation make it possible for husbands to work far from home and for children to participate in so many activities outside of the home. Advances in technology make it possible for us to take our work home with us at night and to have so many distracting pings and dings coming from smartphones, laptops, and tablets.
In some ways these things make life easier, but in other ways they make life so much busier.
Busyness: The Consequences
Perhaps you’re wondering, “Is busyness really that big of a problem?” The answer is, “Yes, it is a problem!”
Understand that busyness is not inherently wrong. There is nothing sinful about being busy. In fact, we are called to be busy and diligent in serving God and His church and doing the work He has called us to perform.
But busyness can have damaging consequences in our homes and families when we handle it in the wrong way.
Busyness can have consequences on a marriage. Husband and wife can be so busy that they hardly have any time for each other. This fundamental relationship gets pushed to the sidelines because they are busy doing all sorts of other others. What can happen is that when the children grow up and move out, husband and wife realize they hardly know each other any more.
Busyness can have consequences on children. Many parents think they are helping their children by working long hours so that they can buy them nice things, but what they don’t stop to realize is that they are withholding from their children the one they need most of all: their time and attention. Too easily parents sin against their children by not being home with them enough and giving them enough undistracted attention. Children are also hurt when parents deal with their busyness by lazy parenting. Because they feel like they’re too busy to discipline properly, the parents either resort to impatient yelling and screaming or to not disciplining at all.
Busyness can have the consequence of pushing spiritual activities out of our lives. In many homes there is no time of family worship because family members are all off doing their own thing. And when they do manage to gather together, the family worship consists of a quick reading of a few verses of the Bible, no discussion regarding what was read, and then a hasty prayer, after which the whole family scatters. Everyone is too busy with other things ever to sit down, crack open a book, and read something beneficial, and too busy to attend a Bible study. The level of our busyness is often inversely related to the level of our involvement in spiritual activities.
Busyness: The Counter
What are we to do about this?
We might be tempted to throw up our hands in despair. We might be thinking, “Yes, busyness is a problem, but what can we possibly do to avoid it?”
On the one hand, we do have to reckon with the fact that having a family is going to be busy. There is simply no avoiding it: at times our homes are going to be hectic.
On the other hand, we can minimize some of the busyness in our lives. This is only possible when we radically and rigorously reorder the priorities in our lives. Things of first importance must come first in our lives. Worship and church life, quality family time, and spiritual activities must be top priority, and the time necessary for these things must be guarded jealously. The other important things in our lives are then ordered around our top priorities, and things of lesser importance may need to be cut out entirely. This may seem like a radical measure, but we should be ready to do so for the sake of the well-being and strength of our families.
Finally, recognizing the difficulties we face, we need the encouragement to look to God for the grace and wisdom to serve him faithfully in our covenant homes. “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it…” (Ps. 127:1).
Written by: Rev. Joshua Engelsma | Issue 48